Saturday, April 23, 2011
May and June 2010 (2 years in 20 days continued)
Pictured: Felista Mpangile, an 11 year old girl attending the Care and Treatment Clinic for treatment of HIV.
In June 2010, we lost a dear friend as a girl from our Children's Village died needlessly from complications due to HIV. Volunteer manager, Jenny Peck wrote this description of the events leading to this tragedy:
It is with deepest sadness that we pass on this news. Saturday June 26th, Felista Mpangile, an eleven year old here at our orphanage, passed away at 4am due to major organ failure caused by HIVAIDS. She is the first child here to pass away, and I still hear the beautiful haunting songs that were sung by her peers and guardians as they mourned her death, bringing tears to my eyes unexpectedly from time to time since then. Her story has left a deep impact on all of us here, and whomever she met along her journey I can guarantee, feels the same way. The hour of her death, she asked the housemother with her to pray with her, through her pain. She asked, “Why are you making me suffer so, God? Just take me! I didn’t make the mistake, my parents did. Why are you punishing me? Take me!” Until the entire ward at the hospital was in tears with her and Yasinta, the housemother. One month ago, Felista fell ill, and became skeletal, complaining about her stomach and head. After a few visits to the local dispensary, we were advised to take her immediately to the private hospital nearby where we found the shocking fact that she had a CD4 count of 2! Unfortunately for Felista, and thousands of people like her, she fell through the cracks of an already, severely broken system. She was taking Ceptrin, a broad spectrum antibiotic from the time she started “treatment” (Though the PEPFAR plan “the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief” pledged free ARV’s (Anti-retro-virals) to countries in Africa, a person must have a CD4 count of 200 or below to receive them, which is VERY low, as the normal healthy person has a CD4 count of around 1200 on average (the higher the count, the more protection your body has to fight infection). For the millions of people who are tested positive, but are healthy enough to keep living, they are given this broad spectrum antibiotic to keep their immune systems going until they are on deaths doorstep.).
Dr. Leena Pasanen had found Felista, a little 10 year old girl, all by herself at the hospital, asking to be tested, because both her parents had died, and she noticed that she was sick a lot and she had learned in school about HIVAIDS. She learned that indeed she was positive, and began treatment, but began asking/begging Dr. Leena to please take her to live at the Children’s Village because all of the children in her village of Ibwanzi had found out that she was positive and were ostracizing and teasing her. The NGO talked with teachers and village council members, all of who repeated the same story and all agreed with Felista’s request that she should go to the children’s village. The only true relative Felista had left was her grandfather, and he was unable to care for her. She came to the Children’s Village early in April, and fit in right away. She was continuing her treatment, however, as the village dispensary is a satellite of the district hospital for HIVAIDS care and treatment (until the CTC is finished and up and running), all the files are kept in Mafinga town, a good 55KM away. Normally, patients will come once a month (the staff comes to the dispensary twice a month to see the 1000+patients, meaning over 400 patients in one day seen by one doctor!) to get a refill of their medication, weigh in and talk about their health. As great as it was to get the hospital coming to the village, it still is a broken system, as Felista’s file was FORGOTTEN for three times in a row! The doctors just kept refilling her meds, not looking at her file, or really talking with her, as they just had too many patients to see. This, together with the problem that the district Hospital had run out of reagents to work the CD4 machine, became a lethal combination. For 4 months, this machine was “not working”, according to the doctors there. It wasn’t until we had to rush Felista to the private hospital 40km away that we found out just how low her CD4 count actually was. Had the doctors brought her file any of those three times when it was forgotten, or had that CD4 machine been working to test her each time, this death would surely have been prevented. This is our call to action! There does not need to be any more needless deaths! CD4 machines are available-they are $50,000, but they are available. This CTC in our village is close to being opened, meaning that all the patients’ files will be kept in the village-no more forgetting files! The only thing missing now is this machine. And if we could do anything for the Felista’s of these villages, we need to get it. NOW.
We’ve welcomed the return of some people who’ve come from our favourite Canadian organization African Book Box Society this May and June. We’re forever grateful for the commitment the volunteers and members from African Book Society have given over the years, and this May we welcomed Anne Pearson, her husband, Terry, and volunteers Lauren Pearson (Anne and Terry’s daughter) and Pre-med student Brian Hurley. Terry has given us a very detailed map as to how to arrange our CD4 laboratory, as he has shared with us his years of laboratory work in Canada and in Kenya. Anne and Lauren have worked tirelessly it seems on countless new resources for our Teach English program that has now been adapted not only for teaching adults in the community, but also for teaching Primary and Secondary School students in the area in their classrooms. Anne and Terry returned back to Canada in June, but Lauren and Brian have stayed on and will be here throughout July. Both Lauren and Brian have been active in the communities, and have been teaching with local staff at the schools in our villages. Both have also taught regularly in our Adult English classes each evening.
June also brought the triumphant return of our original volunteers from last year- DOCTORS Will Metcalfe, and Vicky Milne. Will and Vicky were visited by Mama Bahati in their first week here, and the two doctors (officially qualified with their exam results given to them while here in Tanzania) had their picture taken with baby Bahati, now over a year old and very strong. Last year they managed to initiate a feeding regimen that saved the child’s life, and later this year or early next the child will be scheduled for a surgery on his double cleft palate and lip.
This year the two doctors have a shorter visit, but among other things are planning on expanding on their HIV prevalence findings that are featured in the NGO informational video. They have already visited dozens of families and patients in the surrounding villages, and we look forward to seeing them again next year!
Dr. Leena Pasanen
Dr. Leena graced us with her service again this month. She again held clinics at each of the health facilities in the villages of Ibwanzi, Mdabulo, and Luhunga. Dr. Leena also made home visits in Mwefu, Igereke A, and other parts of the village of Luhunga where patients were unable to leave their homes for health care. Finally, she held clinics in villages without a health facility, such as Ikanin’gombe, and Ilasa. At each of these clinics and home visits she sees a great bevy of problems, but also gives the NGO an insight on the problems that are afflicting our area. It is a valued resource to have her so closely connected with the people in our area, and to have such a personal insight on the lives of the people we are living with. She also made a stop at the Children’s village, to see our latest children, and to help us with the requisite health exam. We also again thank her for her time during our greatly successful Women’s health seminar!
One of our goals in regards to health care is offering quality health services to this rural population so that the overall health in the area is improved thus enabling and empowering people to care for their children, and get themselves out of poverty. At the Mdabulo health facility, we hope to build an extension that will ultimately upgrade the facility into a fully functional Hospital. We hope to include staff housing, a dental clinic, operating theatres, an x-ray room, optometry room, consultancy rooms, women’s, men’s, and children’s in-patient wards, and all of the health care services any community deserves.
In June we managed to complete construction to the ‘ring beam’ level! We are waiting for specifically allocated funds to continue with this project. So far, we have come this far with a donation from an Italian Catholic priest who was requested via written letter from the NGO to see if there were any contributions to be made on behalf of the church for this project. He came out with 9 million shillings a few months later!
The news becomes more depressing after the recent developments in our strides to get this area the HIV treatment it deserves. Just yesterday we attended the first CTC day following Felesta’s passing. The staff from the Care and Treatment Clinic in Mafinga arrived quite late, and many patients again did not get to see their files. As a frustrating example of our struggles we are having here, the children’s village brought four children to Mdabulo to receive treatment from Mafinga, and ALL four children were told that their files had been forgotten.
Measures have already been taken to insure this does not keep happening, but we cannot be sure of the efficiency of this over-worked system. We are continuing to push to get the facility open and on it’s own.
Unfortunately bureaucracy is not making this easy. The facility has been ‘assessed’ recently and it has been stated that the facility will open when we add a 6-foot veranda on one side of the building and add two more sinks to two of the rooms. Also, not one piece of the furniture Tunajali has promised to build/supply has materialized, therefore our laboratory remains empty and without shelves.
Our new plan, together with the Mission, is to move ahead to complete the furniture and shelving, and hope to be reimbursed by Tunajali. We are also looking into the possibility of finding a CD4 Machine ourselves, and the logistics of such an endeavor.
It is shameful what casualty bureaucracy and formalities can bring to people who are grateful for what they have who only start to worry when health runs out.
Igoda Community Hall
The Igoda Community Hall is a project completely funded through African Book Box that will be used as a long-term tool for the community to use to educate themselves. The hall will be a source of education about various pertinent issues to this community including HIV/AIDS awareness, children’s and women’s rights, overall health, as well as many other issues. The hall will also host a bevy of events that will hopefully galvanize the community to lead itself out of poverty and help re-create a family based community upon which all of these villages founded.
June 16th marks Children of Africa Day, and as the NGO was honoured last year by having our own Jenny Peck speak as Mgeni Rasmi (honoured Guest), this year’s speaker was Bibi Cecilia. Bibi Cecilia Masonda is now 88 years old and has cared for over 80 orphaned children since 1970. Someday her whole story will be told, but for now we are truly grateful to be sharing space with such a heroic individual. On June 16th, the local primary schools gathered at the Igoda Community hall to celebrate Children of Africa Day. There were many songs, performances, and talks about children’s rights, and to have Bibi Cecila honour us with her words at the end of the day was truly encouraging.
Also in June we had our first Babu history day at the Igoda Community Hall. 4 (very old) Grandfathers were invited to the Community Hall to be asked questions by an audience of secondary school students. The questions all had to deal with the history of Mufindi, and the villages of Igoda and Luhunga. The event was well attended as the entire Luhunga Secondary School student body was invited, and nearly everyone arrived, filling the community hall. Many stories were shared including origins of family names such as Kalinga, Mvinge, and Chumi; and origins of place names such as Igoda, Luhunga, and Mdabulo. Many other stories were shared as well, including how elders used to communicate by yelling from hilltop to hilltop to share news with neighbors when each family lived so very far apart. We are quickly finding quite a few great purposes for the community hall and everyone in the area is beginning to associate the building as a place of gathering, and learning. The community is using this facility as a great resource to educate itself, and everyone seems to be grateful for its presence.